Drone start-up enters home stretch for top African prize

The Jack Ma Foundation-sponsored Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) has announced its final ten 2020 African Business Heroes (ABH) – and a drone start-up is still in the running.

Investiv is an agriculture technology company specialising in the use of precision agriculture – including drone technology – to improve conditions for farmers throughout Côte d’Ivoire and West Africa. As a pioneer of drone applications in agriculture, the start-up provides partners with technical and innovative solutions that reduce losses, increase crop outputs while saving time with environmentally friendly crop-dusting services.

Founded by Aboubakar Karim, Investiv are still in the running for a share from the total prize worth $1,5million; having made the cut for the final ten finalists candidates, who will undergo further intense scrutiny from a seven-judge panel, to test the solidity of their business plans, their motivation and vision, and ability to clearly articulate why the ground-breaking nature of their ideas can solve pressing problems and catalyse change for society, inspiring others to do the same.

“We really want to contribute to building the future of African agriculture,” says Karim, in his latest pitch to the ABH judges. “We do that by enabling our clients to improve the levels of performance in production than they are currently achieving, thanks to advanced planning tools like drone mapping and phytosanitary diagnostics by drone. We also help them protect their crops in a more efficient and environmentally safer way, thanks to drone-based aerial spraying methods.

“We have also expanded our operations to offer training in drone piloting and precision agriculture. We are generally focussing on advising in the field of precision agriculture. This includes the development of IT solutions, software and other technologies adapted to the agricultural world.”

The competition is run under ANPI’s Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) Prize, whose sponsors, the Jack Ma Foundation, have pledged $100 million in grant funding, training programs, and support for the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem to 100 deserving start-ups for the next ten years, starting in 2019.

As the Ivorian franchise for Flying Labs, a WeRobotics non-profit network of drone services providers worldwide, Investiv played their part in helping their local community by providing mapping services to smallholder cocoa farmers hoping to qualify for the Utz Certification Programme – a project designed to encourage farmers to observe sustainable farming practices on the cocoa plots.

From the initial gross number of applications by 22,000 hopeful young entrepreneurs, the other nine finalists to give Investiv a run for the money are:

Investiv are keeping the drone torch burning

Amaati – A Ghanaian social enterprise whose mission is to build sustainable communities through the use of an extinct and neglected crop called Fonio (an indigenous cereal of the African Sahel, also known as acha, hungry rice or petit millet). The company is led by Abdulai A. Dasana, an agricultural technologist with a decade of experience in finance, banking and SMEs, and with a vision to revolutionize the agriculture sector to benefit the most vulnerable.

Le Chocolatier Ivorien – The Ivorian start-up manufactures and offers handcrafted, made-in-Africa chocolate products, promoting sustainable cultivation techniques and a fairer distribution of income in the cocoa production value chain through a direct partnership with female growers. The founder, Axel Emmanuel Gbaou, who started his career as a banker and established the company in his mother’s kitchen, holds a degree in International Public Law, and a Master’s in Taxation.

BrightGreen Renewable Energy – This Kenyan company produces life-saving fuel bricks that reduce the cost of cooking for underserved communities across Africa and save forests. The company is led by Chebet Lesan who has a background in Leadership from Cambridge University, Product Design from the University of Nairobi, Supply Chain Management from Rutgers School of Business and a Business-Design Fellowship from Massachusetts Institute of Technology D-Lab.

Enko Education – Headquartered in Cameroun, the company operates one of the largest networks of private schools in Africa that teaches the prestigious International Baccalaureate curriculum to spread the access to quality international education for African youth. Its founder, Cyrille Nkontchou, is a trained economist with extensive experience as a fund manager, a banker and a consultant.

Moneymart – A Zimbabwean based microfinance institution that offers tailor-made business loans to small and medium enterprises, and also individuals who live off the power grid to access quality solar-lighting-kits. The company is co-led by Ethel Mupambwa, who has nine years of experience in finance and is a Level 2 Chartered Financial Analyst Candidate.

Mathematics, Scence and Technology (MST) Junior School – a Ugandan Primary School with a unique approach and earning model. It aims to equip the pupils with unique skills to solve agriculture issues such as food insecurity, waste mismanagement and malnutrition. The school was established by Dr. Emma Naluyima, a veterinary doctor, farmer and educator with a desire to train young people and change their lives through Modern and Purposeful Farming.

Uganics – Also from Uganda, the organisation is a social business that manufactures life-saving organic anti-malaria soap to address the malaria disease, which kills millions of people every year. The product sells around the world at a high profit margin to subsidise sales to poor populations at the same price as regular soap. Uganics is led by Joan Rukundo Nalubega, a malaria survivor and a social entrepreneur with a vision to fight Malaria.

Diarrablu – From Senegalese, Diarrablu is a fashion tech company merging African artisan traditions with technology to empower African artisans and build an ethical and sustainable fashion future centred around ancestral African craftsmanship. The company is led by Diarra Gueye who has experience in finance, mathematics, and design and recently completed her Master’s at Stanford University with a focus on creative mathematics.

MDaaS Global – The Nigerian company builds and operates modern, tech-enabled diagnostic centres in clinically-underserved communities starting in Nigeria to provide a world-class patient experience at highly-affordable prices. The company is led by Oluwasoga Oni, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)-trained system engineer.

The winners will be announced next month, at a ceremony to be held on November 13 and 14.

“I continue to be amazed by the passion, resilience, and vision of Africa’s entrepreneurs, and I look forward to meeting these ten extraordinary businesswomen and businessmen at the finale. I am excited to learn more about how they are driving positive change and progress across the continent,” said Jack Ma, Founder of the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Group.

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